- On Tuesday, the House elected to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy from his role as speaker.
- And while a handful of members are calling for a Trump speakership, there’s no shot of it happening.
- A non-member has never been speaker, and GOP conference rules appear to stand in Trump’s way.
It’s only been two days since a majority of members in the House of Representatives elected to boot GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the speakership, but a select few have already said they’ve settled on a replacement. Specifically, one that has a lower chance of happening than Sen. John Fetterman becoming an avid fan of men’s formal wear.
So far, Republican bomb-thrower Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Greg Steube, and Rep. Troy Nehls have each publicly stated they want the House of Representatives to be led for the next year by former President Donald Trump, with Greene going as far to say that he’s the “only candidate” for speaker she’s currently down to vote for.
It’s technically legal
Anyone can technically successfully get elected as speaker of the House — yes, non-members of Congress can as well due to an “Air Bud”-esque lack of regulation around who can fill the position to begin with — but in more than 200 years of congressional sessions and speakerships, there hasn’t once been a non-sitting member of the House chosen as speaker.
And as Republicans in the House hold such a narrow majority, there’s also practically no possibility of Trump becoming speaker if only a few GOP members are opposed, as there’s zero chance even a single Democrat would vote for the embattled former president to lead the chamber.
At the moment, there’s also no assurance that Trump is even interested in the position at all. Speaking to reporters at his civil fraud trial in New York, he recently said his focus was “totally on” running for president, though he also noted he’d “do whatever is best for the country and for the Republican Party.”
Even if he gets immense GOP congressional support to become speaker, Trump also appears like the very last person who’d even want the position.
Allow me to explain.
This job is all the things Donald Trump dislikes about power and none of the things he likes about being powerful
Aside from holding immense authority in the US government, and joining the upper rungs of the presidential line of succession, the roles of speaker of the House and president are wildly different.
As president, Trump was free to hire and fire staffers, counsel, and his cabinet at any point he wanted. With that power, the former president cycled through chiefs of staff, agency directors, and more during his four years in office despite stating before becoming president that he’d surround himself with only “the best and most serious people.”
If he becomes speaker, he’d still have the ability to dismiss a member of the speaker’s office staff if upset with them, but he wouldn’t have the power to remove the peskiest people he’d run into on the job: the representatives themselves.
Trump has a long history of publicly denigrating any politician who acts out of sync with what he personally wants in an attempt to shame them into falling in line. If he continued to go after members like that as speaker instead of trying to mend relationships and make concessions, it’d be hard for him to find much success in the role and pass the necessary legislation to keep the government funded.
As a speaker but not a member of Congress, Trump would have literally no ability to vote on any pieces of legislation. And as per centuries of tradition, he’d also be discouraged from voicing his opinion during floor debates and would be required to intimately learn the customary parliamentary procedure necessary to keep such a massive legislative body in order.
Let’s say Trump is fine with that. Can he even get the job?
Let’s imagine, for a minute, that Trump’s both interested in the position and can somehow manage to convince GOP members to take McCarthy’s spot. There’d still be one major obstacle for him to overcome: the Republican conference’s own rules for this session of Congress.
As Democratic Rep. Sean Casten pointed out Tuesday night, rule 26(a) states that “A member of the Republican Leadership shall step aside if indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed.”
In 2023 alone, federal and state grand juries have thrown the book at Trump over allegations of business fraud, attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, used a “hush money” scheme to pay off a porn star, and mishandling classified documents.
In total, he’s been charged with 91 felony charges.
One of the GOP conference’s own rules, however, already appears to have been circumvented this week.
As former Speaker Newt Gingrich angrily pointed out in a recent editorial piece, the rules stipulate that the ability for a member to file a motion to vacate “should only be available with the agreement of the Republican Conference so as to not allow Democrats to choose the Speaker.”
So while yes, just as a well-trained golden retriever could theoretically lead the House, so too could Trump if he can unite the conference and sidestep its own rules.
But with obstacle after obstacle in the way, and the position likely not even personally interesting to Trump, it’s probably best for Congress to look elsewhere for a new leader.
Trump obviously enjoys being a speaker. But can he tolerate having to deal with the House?